One of the things that I’m always trying to emphasize to my clients and people that I’m working with is:
First, we really need to address the dog’s underlying needs before we can address the problem behavior.
What this looks like in application is, let’s say you have a problem with your dog or your puppy barking…
Before we can even talk about the barking problem, first, we want to address whatever the underlying need is – why is the dog barking?
I usually start with medical issues, because we always want to clear that off the table if we can. So, is there a medical issue that is causing the dog’s barking, like chronic pain of some sort? We really want to address that first.
Once we get the medical all clear, our next question is are the dogs physical needs being met? Meaning, is the dog being sufficiently exercised? For example. a dog with too much energy can have a barking problem. And, I’m using barking, but you could really substitute any behavior problem here.
So after we ensure the dog is being physically exercised, our next question is, is the dog eating an appropriate food? Is the dog eating the food that has sugar in the ingredients? Are they eating a lot of junk food? And you could talk about that with your vet.
Once we address those two things, then we can look at mentally, how is the dog doing?
- Is the dog bored?
- Is the dog getting enough training?
- Is the dog getting activity toys?
- Is the dog getting all those things that it needs?
- Is the dog getting the right amount of leadership?
- Is the dog getting the right amount of structure, the right amount of boundaries?
- Are we doing impulse control training?
- Is it an impulse control issue?
- Is the dog just like, I see it I want it and I don’t know how to deal with the frustration of not being able to have it right now, so I bark. (And, it could be anything. It could be you… The dog could be sitting in his crate and barking out the crate door at you because the dog can’t deal with the frustration, or the puppy can’t deal with the frustration, of seeing you and not being able to have you right now. That’s an impulse control issue.)
As we break down a problem, such as barking, when we start addressing the underlying needs, then we fix the actual problem, the root cause.
The barking is usually just a symptom. It’s a symptom of something else.
So, if we address the barking, we’re just addressing the symptom. But if the root problem is still there, it might just end up manifesting in a different way.
By focusing on the root cause and not the symptom, you’re going to do yourself a favor. You’re going to be a more effective trainer. You’re going to be a more effective dog or puppy owner if you can pinpoint the underlying problem and address it at the root source.
That is what is going to actually fix that behavioral problem for you, and it’s going to fix it in the long term. That is the huge tip that I’m sharing with you today, that if you apply this to your puppy or dog raising, I think that you are going to see some MAJOR results.
So remember, any time that you’re dealing with a challenging behavior problem, be it barking or pulling on the leash, jumping, excessive chewing, digging, whatever it is… Figure out what the underlying need is and address that first. And, that is going to be a much more effective solution to your problem than just focusing on the problem itself, which is usually a symptom of a greater underlying problem.
Please leave me a comment if any of this resonates with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts!